Was foul play involved in the death of an exotic dancer?

Crystal Spencer

She had been dead in her apartment for a week

CASE DETAILS

Neighbors heard screams the night she died

Crystal Lene Spencer was raised in a small northern California town. At 17, she dropped out of high school and took a job to help support the family. In the summer of 1982, she moved to Los Angeles to chase her Hollywood dream. But she soon realized that stardom was not so easy to come by. Crystal reluctantly took a job as an exotic dancer to pay her bills. On a good night, she took home $400 in tips, but she never fully accepted the fact that she was basically a stripper. According to Crystal’s friend, Patti Jo Millhouse, the fact bothered Crystal:

“She would just start crying. Like she felt degraded about herself, of what she’d done.”

In May of 1987, friends invited Crystal to a barbeque. She was eager to socialize with people who might help with her acting career.  It was there that she met Anton Kline:

“There was something very alluring and compelling about Crystal that would readily catch your eye. She knew that she would become, not only an actress, but she’d become a very famous actress, and it was just a matter of time.”

Anton Kline was an aspiring screenwriter and Ph.D. candidate. He and Crystal came from totally different backgrounds, but they soon fell in love. Anton took it upon himself to help Crystal broaden her horizons. Anton says he introduced her to art galleries, museums, and concerts:

“She loved classical music. She loved fine art. She wanted to know more about these other wonderful things of life that she had never been exposed to before.”

The autopsy report contained discrepancies

Anton had no idea that Crystal worked as a stripper. She walked a fine line, discovering art and culture by day, and working Hollywood’s dark side by night. Patti Jo said Crystal did her best to keep her night job a secret:

“Crystal loved Anton very much. She was very scared about him finding out, and she said, ‘Well, I better quit dancing then before he finds out.’”

Finally, four months after they met, Anton says he found out about Crystal’s other life:

“A neighbor saw her dancing at the club by the airport where she worked. And he said, ‘I saw that girl on stage.’  I said, ‘No, you couldn’t have.’  He said, ‘That was her.’  Of course it was her. And I was shocked.”

According to Patti Jo, Anton forgave Crystal:

“He was very upset, but he said it was OK. He accepted it. Which shocked her, and she didn’t know what to say.”

Anton spoke to Crystal shortly before she died

On Wednesday, May 4, 1988, Crystal was home sick with the flu. Anton stopped by and they talked about an offer she had received to work in Japan. The next night, Anton said he spoke the Crystal on the phone and she said she was feeling better:

“The conversation lasted about fifteen minutes. I said, ‘I’ll be in touch’, and she said OK, and I hung up the phone, and that was the last time I ever spoke with her.”

Three days later, Anton tried to reach Crystal by phone, but he kept getting a busy signal.  An operator told him the receiver was off the hook. Anton said he just assumed that Crystal had left for Japan without saying good-bye:

“I was expecting, any day, to receive a very excited phone call from Crystal saying, ‘It’s wonderful here.’ And instead, I got a phone call from the Burbank police department.”

Family and friends were upset with investigators

On Friday, the 13th of May, 1988, police had discovered Crystal’s decomposed body in her apartment. She appeared to have been dead for almost a week. Anton Kline was questioned:

“They at first just said she was found dead at her apartment and they wanted to know when I’d last seen her. And I said I last saw her Wednesday. They asked, ‘And how was she?’  I said, ‘Well, she had a cold.’  And they said they believe she died of natural causes.”

An autopsy revealed no trace of drugs or alcohol in Crystal’s system. There were no obvious signs of foul play or suicide.  The coroner ruled that her death was a result of “undetermined causes.” Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Cohen:

“The body of Miss Spencer was in such an advanced state of decomposition, they were not able to ascribe the cause of death so they have no finding.”

Anton could not believe that Crystal had died of natural causes:

“When I last saw her, she was a young woman with a cold. I was suspicious because of the way I was told the body was found in an obscure corner of her apartment, nude from the waist down. And I learned that neighbors had heard terrible screams coming from her apartment, that someone had described as ‘the sounds of torture.’”

On May 7, three days after Crystal had been at home sick, two of her neighbors, Susan Akin-Taylor and Jet Taylor were woken up around 4 A.M. by a strange crying sound.  According to Susan:

“I laid there thinking, ‘Someone’s being tortured. Someone’s being hurt. Something’s going on.’”

Jet Taylor:

“Susan was very adamant about calling the police, but out of my fear of what I heard, I didn’t want to get involved.”

Susan Akin-Taylor:

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live with the fact that I didn’t call the police. If I had, maybe she would still be alive.”

Crystal’s body was discovered a week after her neighbors heard the screams. They finally told their story to the police. Jet Taylor said the police officer seemed disinterested:

“He just took my statement and my name, asked me for my driver’s license, and that was it. And he was just very nonchalant about it.”

Crystal’s family requested to view the body several times, but the coroner’s office continually refused, claiming the body was in no condition to be seen. Anton was denied access to the police records. However, in September of 1988, four months after Crystal’s death, he was able to obtain the autopsy report. Anton says he was shocked by what he found:

“Crystal Spencer was barely five foot tall. The autopsy report claimed that she was an amazing five foot seven. Crystal weighed approximately 105 pounds.  The autopsy claims the body is a well-nourished, 140 pounds.  I was stunned.  I said, ‘This is the not the body of Crystal Spencer. Where is the real body of Crystal Spencer?’”

Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Cohen:

“We do have the remains identified by fingerprints from two different agencies, and those really eliminate any possibility of the coroner’s autopsying the wrong remains.”

Anton has come to the conclusion that the police know more than they’re admitting:

“I was told by one law enforcement official, ‘Bad things happen to bad girls.’  And I said, ‘You mean, bad girls die of natural causes?’ And he said, ‘You know what I mean’, and hung up the phone on me.”

Two weeks after Crystal’s body was found, family and friends gathered for a private memorial service. Crystal’s ashes were scattered beneath the famous Hollywood sign.  Anton Kline is still searching for the truth:

“I am angered that they are attempting to suppress the police reports in this case forever.  We need to know what happened to her. It’s important to all of us who cared about her to learn the truth. That’s all we want, is the truth.”

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina.

SUBMIT A TIP

 

31 Comments

  1. Jorge

    There are a number of VERY troubling aspects in this scenario, whether Crystal died of natural causes or homicide that have NOT been discussed to date.

    BACKGROUND:

    1. Crystal left a message on my answering service on Tuesday May 3 or Wednesday May 4. I don’t recall exactly which because I had been in a very serious auto accident that previous Sunday night, May 1st. In the message Crystal stated that she was very sick with the flu and asked me to call if I wanted to talk. She sounded like she was on her deathbed, barely able to talk. She didn’t sound like she had the flu or cold, but like someone extremely ill. My auto accident (five-car pileup on Fwy 405) occurred in my brand new company car, and I had key business appointments the entire week, starting at 8:00 AM the following Monday. I couldn’t be bothered with anyone’s problems until I had resolved my own. Besides, Crystal had a boyfriend with whom she was in DAILY contact. Surely, she would contact him for conversation, if not for assistance.

    2. By Friday, May 6th, home-office day, accident related issues had cooled somewhat and I returned some belated calls, including Crystal’s. Her phone was busy, not unusual, since she spent hours talking on the phone. That evening I stopped by the Wild Goose to see how Crystal was doing. I didn’t see her and asked a waitress if Crystal was working that evening. She was, according to the waitress, but I was there for about an hour and a half and did not see her. I had assumed she left early and went to spend the night with her boyfriend. After work, Crystal always stopped at her boyfriend’s house for the night.

    3.On Friday May 13, 1988 I found a note on my doorknob from the BPD to call. There were Police cars across the street. I responded. My name was on Crystal’s rent application as a Reference…I was, “the ONLY one she knew who had a straight job”….., and they wanted to know what I knew. The meeting was an extended one and I will NOT discuss what transpired, because some of that might still be Classified.

    VERY TROUBLING ASPECTS OF THIS CASE

    1. Constant references are being made that Crystal had a job offer as a hostess in Japan and was worried about going there. FALSE….Totally FALSE. Crystal NEVER received any such offer. She had attended a presentation done for a group of interested actresses/models at Denny’s for a special trip to Japan to act as hostesses on a special project. Those girls who were interested were asked to leave their resume’s and they would be contacted if the agency was interested to pursue further. The Japanese agency was seeking the All-American California Surfer Type—long haired blonde, tall, long-legged and tanned. Crystal was 5’1”, dark haired and dark eyed, and somewhat Japanese looking. She was NEVER considered by the Japanese agency. ZIP! End of discussion.

    2. Crystal’s boyfriend Anton claims that during his visit on May 4, Crystal had the flu, but was up and about, running around. I wonder what medication did she take to make such a remarkable “recovery?” Her sister also stated that Crystal claimed to be severely ill and wanted to speak with her mother, on the same day Anton visited.

    3. Despite Crystal’s illness, and her phone being busy, her boyfriend didn’t bother to get into his car and drive to see if she was OK. Furthermore, he called the phone company about the busy phone. Why? He was told it was off the hook. Instead of being concerned about Crystal…she had been quite ill……he simply “assumed” she had left for Japan without telling him…….in spite of their “intense love affair.” Wow! I’m NOT implying that anything improper was done by Anton, but folks, the man was getting his PhD. Stupid he was not, or was he?

    THE REAL CRYSTAL SPENCER…….it’s not polite to disparage the dead, but the Truth is the Truth….

    1. The portrayal of Crystal in the TV specials, as presented by Anton was Pure Fiction. One of her fellow dancers told me that she would never believe anything she saw on TV again. Anton, a supposedly very intelligent writer, PhD candidate, lover of learning, history and the classical arts described Crystal as this endearing, unique woman who was not only going to be an actress, but a Great Actress. This from a very perceptive intellectual and judge of the human condition. LOL

    2. So, who was the Real Crystal Spencer who would drive this Intellectual of the Classic Arts and PhD candidate into near hysteria? Crystal came from “the other side of the tracks.” Her father died in prison. She dropped out of high school. She did filing for a living, as well as cleaning houses, although not her own. Crystal was a serious Alcoholic and Drug Addict.

    Crystal’s apartment was a Pig Stye. How any clean, intelligent person could tolerate being there is beyond me, much less a nice Kosher Jewish Boy, an Intellectual absorbed by the Classics and Intelligent conversation. Crystals apartment was strewn with discarded clothes, shoes, etc, from end to end. Uneaten food, papers, everywhere. Drawers were pulled open, with clothes hanging from them. The bathroom was a SHOCKER. The hand towels were filthy, appearing to have come from a mechanics restroom. The sink was more black than white. The countertop was covered in its entirety with makeup, half of it spilled all over the counter. The TOILET was the ultimate shocker. Upon lifting the seat, the entire bowl was covered in FECES, water line to the top! Crystal was an Alcoholic and Drug Addict of the worst sort.

    3. Crystal has been presented as an innocent, struggling in a “degrading” job in order to better herself, trying desperately to escape her condition. Crystal LOVED her job! The only thing she didn’t like was the requirement that she be sober on the job. Crystal was rarely sober, and being sober is what she did NOT like. Crystal was also a Drug Addict, but more than that Crystal was significant Drug Dealer as well.

    Comments have been presented that Crystal was embarrassed by her topless dancing. If I had boobs that drooped down to the waist like two rolls of film, I’d have been embarrassed too. How embarrassed was Crystal by dancing, not enough to keep from dancing Nude as well. Crystal did Nude Dance Contests. In one such event I witnessed, Crystal gave all of her personalized attention to a young Hollywood Leading Man sitting at the stage. Afterwards, Crystal went over to him, kissed him on the cheek and gave him her phone number. He never called.

    THE MOST BIZARRE ASPECT OF THE ENTIRE CASE…….THE RELATIONSHIP

    1. If Opposites Attract, this is one for Shakespeare. A middle-aged Kosher Jewish Intellectual lives with another man in a house in Play del Rey. His life is saturated by the best cultural entities available to man…..Classical Music, Art, Museums, Theatre, History, Literature, and the never-ending pursuit of knowledge and a terminal degree. He is immediately drawn to a high school dropout Shiksa who can’t stop drinking until she passes out, who has no concept of intellect at any level. Then there is her personal hygiene, organization skills , housekeeping and occupation. Anton has found his Muse. He is going to turn her into a Lady, and fellow lover of the arts. Hasn’t this movie been made…a couple of times.

    2. Crystal was most grateful for all the attention she got from Anton, especially his interest in marrying her. It was a possibility she had considered. She wasn’t getting any younger, and he was very CARING and Committed. There was only thing that bothered her; Crystal suspected that Anton might be GAY!

    HOW DID CRYSTAL DIE? WHAT CAUSED HER DEATH?

    1. Natural causes are a real possibility. She was an alcoholic and drug abuser. Her physical condition was very poor. Her irises looked like they belonged to a 100 year old, a very bad sign. Actually frightening. She was very ill the week of her demise, or so it appears. People in poor health do die from the flu. She could have died from organ failure. We’ll never know about that.

    2. Homicide is an equal probability. She could have been tortured and strangled. An even greater possibility is POISONING, assuming it was a homicide.

    Poisoning could explain the moaning that the neighbors heard during the night. It could also explain the supposed moaning that another tenet claimed to have heard during the day. Poison could have been introduced surreptitiously…and by virtually anyone wanting her dead, and there are a number of potential suspects: other drug users, other drug dealers, angry customers, jealous boyfriends, etc.

    WHAT’S MOST TROUBLING HERE?

    1. CREMATION of a body that might have been the result of homicide is UNFORGIVABLE!!!
    2. Who is the person among her contacts…family, lovers, friends, etc., who wanted her cremated?
    3. DISPOSING of the ASHES by scattering them to the winds is equally UNFORGIVABLE!!!
    4. A person poisoned by Arsenic can be determined as such as long as ashes are available. The metal Arsenic will be part of the ash and can be determined as to substance and quantity by chemical analysis. Trust me, I am a Graduate Chemist!

    Reply

  2. Mitzy

    The part where the neighbors talk and say that they didn’t call the police because they didn’t want to get involved makes me boiling mad! I hope that someday, somebody doesn’t want to get involved” when THEY need help!!

    Reply

  3. Justin

    Any update on the next airing date for this episode? I can’t find a schedule by episode.

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Hi Justin – this case is in episodes SP105 on Escape. The next scheduled airing is on December 19, 2016. Please check your local listings to confirm the time.

      Reply

  4. Annie

    Was the person that told Kline his girlfriend was an exotic dancer identified AND questioned?

    Reply

  5. Want to be anonymous

    I too think the boyfriend knows more than what he’s saying. Did anyone confirm the Japan trip? I don’t think crystal would have left without letting others know especially her boyfriend. Also was time of death accurate? Why didn’t boyfriend go to her apartment when he found out her phone was off the hook?

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      Don’t act like a detective or if you know these people personally to make such a judgment, I doubt you have any skills in such things.

      Reply

  6. joey

    Any updates yet

    Reply

  7. Nancy C

    Does the reruns on tv have up to date statuses? I know the series ended in 1999. Pls help! I may have seen someone recently but need to know how up to date these reruns are kept. Thank you!

    Reply

  8. Joy

    Does anyone know what commercials Crystal was in?

    Reply

  9. Katy

    The “Crystal” Episode appeared on Lifetime HD 4-19-2016, at 5 am., on Direct TV. Does anyone know the specific city where she was born and also her age & birthdate?

    Reply

  10. Bill

    Any updates on when this episode SP 105 might air on Lifetime or Escape? It doesn’t look like the episode schedules or times have been update on the Facebook page. Thanks

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Hi Bill – the schedule for Lifetime typically updates on Fridays, and Escape updates once a month or so. Right now it looks like SP105 is scheduled for March 31, 2016 on Escape. Please check your local listings for the time.

      Reply

  11. Tommy B

    Is there anywhere online where this episode (S3E29-SP105) can be seen?

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Hi Tommy – unfortunately there hasn’t been a streaming service yet that wants to show the episodes, so for now they are only on TV on Lifetime and Escape.

      Reply

  12. Anonymous

    Do all of the people quoted in the story above appear on camera for interview in the episode?

    Reply

  13. Bill

    Thank you for your help. It appears that episode is not on any of the networks anytime soon. Is it available on a DVD or is there any other way to view it sooner? Can it be purchased? Thank you again.

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Unfortunately this segment is not currently available for purchase. Lifetime sends us new dates every week, so please check back and hopefully it will be on the list soon!

      Reply

  14. Bill

    Do you have a date for the airing and if it’s lifetime or Escape?

    Reply

  15. Anonymous

    What was the name of the unsolved mystery segment and can it be viewed anywhere?

    Reply

  16. Yvonne Waterloo

    I love you and miss you Crystal I think about you often.

    Reply

  17. Carissa

    I would like to know why Anton let so much time lapse between contact.
    Also if the body cremated was not Crystal’s then who did it belong to?
    Praying that this case gets solved.

    Reply

  18. Debbie

    Crystal was my best friend in grammer school. It upsets me every time I think about how botched the investigation went. This was foul play and sadly; justice for her untimely death most likely wont occur in this lifetime. However the person guilty of the crime wont forget what they did on that fateful day. That truth will never change and it always catches up to them, at some point.

    Reply

  19. Robbie

    What get me about this case is the police didn’t want to let anyone see her saying her body in four days was badly decompose. Second four months later the autopsy shows it wasn’t Crystal, her weight and height didn’t match. Third her boyfriend didn’t check on her for a week or maybe if I remember she suppose to had left to Japan? So the body was not Crystal then who was it and where is Crystal? All I can say a women with a name like Crystal, first three letters are CRY. The blood spilled will cry for justice. The boyfriend, police have a lot of questions to answer.

    Reply

  20. John Cain

    Strangled

    Reply

  21. Dahlia

    I believe someone killed her.

    Reply